Raising the Flag at U.S. Embassy Havana (Video)

Posted: 11:20 pm EDT
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Ahead of the official flag raising at the US Embassy in Havana with Secretary Kerry this Friday, the State Department released the following 8:36 minute video featuring three former U.S. Marines assigned to Embassy Havana in 1961. The video is narrated by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, our Charge d’Affaires to Cuba.

On January 4, 1961, U.S. Marines Jim Tracy, F.W. “Mike” East, and Cpl. Larry C. Morris assigned to U.S. Embassy Havana lowered the American flag outside the embassy for the last time. For 54 years, the soldiers’ warm affection for the Cuban people never wavered. And neither did their belief that, one day, they would reunite to raise the flag again. On August 14, 2015, these three U.S. Marines reunite and join Secretary of State John Kerry to re-open the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

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US Embassy Ulaanbaatar Gets First Ever Marine Security Guard Detachment

— Domani Spero
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Via US Embassy Mongolia:

On May 23, 2014,  U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar held a welcome ceremony to institute the first ever U.S. Marine Security Guard detachment in the Embassy. Ambassador Piper Campbell expressed her delight at having Marines serving at the Embassy Ulaanbaatar.  The Ambassador concluded her speech with a quote from 1885, “The Marines have landed and the situation is well in hand.”

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Adam Zybert thanked the Embassy for the work in preparing for the Marines’ arrival.  He quoted Ronald Reagan “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem”, and continued “If President Reagan were still here today, I believe he would say the U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar does not have that problem either”.

As part of the ceremony, the Marine Security Guards presented the colors for the raising of the flag in the Embassy compound.

U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar held a welcome ceremony to institute the first ever U.S. Marine Security Guard detachment in the Embassy.

Ambassador Piper Campbell during U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar’s welcome ceremony to institute the first ever U.S. Marine Security Guard detachment in the Embassy.

 

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Congress Shuttered Our Zoo, So Here’s the Animal Kingdom Foreign Service Round-Up

— by Domani Spero

You’ve seen this photo of the “sad kid at the zoo,” right? The Atlantic Wire calls it the defining image of the government shutdown.  Okay. Australia’s Herald Sun screams, No zoo for you, kid. The US government shutdown hates children. Who writes things like that?  Also Matt Berman of the National Journal went looking for animals, or tried to (We Try to Find Animals at the Shut-Down National Zoo). He came away with the apparent message from the National Zoo which is this: “During a shutdown, we’ll feed the animals. But not the reporters.” He did not see any animals at the zoo except for a couple of male mammals guarding the gate and he found some fish and turtles at the nearby Petco.

Via Reddit/superbonnie

Via Reddit/superbonnie

As for us, we’re stuck as sad blogger online. The State Department is open for business but its social media arms have reportedly been directed to go limp until the shutdown is over. The embassies Twitter feeds are repeating variations of the same message “Due to the government shutdown, this Twitter feed will not be updated regularly.”  Frankly, some social media ninjas are having a hard time going dark – like @USEmbassyKabul, and @usembassyjkt because Secretary Kerry was in town and @usembassymanila, because of security threats and also Secretary Kerry was not in town.

Meanwhile, U.S. embassy officials are also restricted from giving speeches or conducting public outreach even if the agency is still funded.  Ambassadors are restricted from having welcome or farewell receptions, as well.  The welcome party for U.S.Ambassador Matthew Barzun to London is reportedly sponsored by  Tatler, a Conde Nast publication but was cancelled.  Even if no USG funds are expended, some tasks,chores or fun stuff  (including necessary work ones) are not getting done because they would look bad in the grim light of this government shutdown. But wait, on October 2 AmCham Belgium together with the American Club of Brussels did host a Gala Dinner to welcome the new US Ambassador to Belgium, Denise Bauer. What a difference a few days make!

Anyhow, since our national zoo is closed, we thought a collection of animals overseas might be a worthwhile blogpost during this extremely aggravating season. Note that these official engagements have all happened in the past.  Our ambassadors and diplomatic personnel shown below are not/not feeding any animals not doing engagements during the shutdown; apparently only excepted/limited/restricted/whatever activities.  So no rapid response.  You won’t like us for pointing this out — but … but…the Talibs are ‘um mocking us. Just think about it, okay?  Meanwhile, enjoy the cuties below.

U.S. Embassy Kenya

Ambassador Robert Godec  marked this year’s World Environment Day by adopting a one year old orphaned elephant named Tundani at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park. June 2013 | Via US Embassy Kenya/FB

Amb Godek_elephant2

U.S. Embassy Australia

Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich in a face-to-face croc encounter from the “Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia (photo via Amb Bleich/FB) | The encounter with the croc kind occurred in Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia during  a trip to welcome the arrival of  Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.

If  this shutdown last another week without a resolution, we should petition Congress to go on a CODEL to Darwin!

Amb B_NT

U.S. Embassy Canada

Ambassador David Jacobson carefully examines Batisse, the official mascot of the Royal 22e Regiment in Quebec. As part of a national farewell tour, the Ambassador of the United States took this opportunity to thank and address the troops of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group for their contribution in Afghanistan. | Photo by: Cpl Nicolas Tremblay, Valcartier Imaging Section. Via US Embassy/Flickr

US ambo to ottawa_with goat

U.S. Embassy Laos

Ambassador Karen Stewart with an elephant. We think this was taken at the conservation center in Laos but our reference, the  ambassador’s blog has been updated with a new blog by her successor, Ambassador Clune and the archive had been wiped mighty clean.

ANIMALS_Amb Stewart during elephant festival

U.S. Embassy France

Ambassadeur Charles Rivkin avec “Celebre” au Salon de l’Agriculture 2012.

ANIM_ Ambo Rivkin

U.S. Embassy United Arab Emirates

U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson during a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), the largest such facility in the world. (Photo from US Embassy Abu Dhabi) This was taken prior to his appointment as ambassador to Pakistan, can you tell?

ANIm_Ambo olson with falcon

U.S. Consulate General Toronto, Canada

Consul General Jim Dickmeyer greets Honest Ed (back) and Tecumseh along with their riders, Sgt. Jim Patterson and Staff Insp. Bill Wardle, respectively. The horses and the police officers – all members of the Toronto Police Service’s Mounted Unit took part in President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21st.

POD_inauguration horses

U.S. Embassy New Zealand

Ambassador David Huebner during an official visit to Palmerston North and Massey University’s Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences. A special highlightfor the Ambassador was his introduction to “Chelsea” a mature New Zealand Kiwi who was recovering in the Institute’s specialist care centre. August 2010 | Via US Embassy/Flickr

NZ_kiwi

The Emperor penguin colony representatives in Antarctica during their first diplomatic encounter with Ambassador David Huebner.| Photo by USAF/MarkDoll | December 1,2011 via US Embassy New Zealand

NZ_mike_ambo

U.S. Embassy Norway

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011)
Ambassador Barry White met with representatives from local breeding cooperatives Norsvin and Geno over a traditional Norwegian breakfast at Staur Gjestegård.  The companies conduct cutting edge research in sustainable breeding and artificial insemination and export pig and bull semen to over 20 countries, including the U.S. It’s estimated that over one million pigs and 100,000 cows in the U.S. now carry Norwegian genetic material. Below, Ambassador White stopped for a photo-op with Bosnes, a “quietly confident” 1000kg breeding bull.

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011

U.S. Embassy Thailand

Ambassador Kristie Kenney riding an elephant during Thai Elephant Week in early 2013

Photo via KK/Instagram

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 8.46.10 PM

That’s kind of blurry, so we’ll give you another snapshot of Ambassador Kenney with a real cutie:

Ambassador Kenney with baby elephant

U.S. Embassy Egypt

Photo of U.S. Marine Security Guards and their camels at the pyramids, from MSG Detachment Cairo
via Diplomatic Security

Thanks to A Female Marine (second from left). This photo was taken in 2008 at the Great Pyramid of Giza on the morning of the Marine Ball .  “So the Marine in charge of MWR funds rented a herd of camels for us to sit on while the photographer snapped our pictures. Luckily the herd arrived with a handler for each camel otherwise we never would have been able to get lined up for the photo. The camels were not happy about this at all, they did not appreciate being forced to stand so close to each other and they were constantly squabbling like siblings in the backseat of a car.” Read more about it plus photos here.

Marines_security group in egypt

Perhaps, the most disappointment thing in this collection is the lack of pandas!  We could not locate a snapshot of Ambassador Huntsman or Ambassador Locke with the pandas.  What’s with that?  But we are sorta persistent, and finally we found an ambassador and a panda from 2004, Ambassador Huntsman’s predeceesor, Clark T. Randt, Jr.:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 3.31.17 PM

The end.

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Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities/Personnel: Funding, Sequestration, Affordability and Risks

Secrecy News has just posted a November 26, 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service on diplomatic security and notes that “In almost every year since 2007, Congress appropriated less money for diplomatic security than had been requested.  In FY2012, the State Department sought $2.9 billion for security, and Congress enacted $2.6 billion.”

The CRS report itself described the funding as following a “boom and bust” cycle:

“Observers have suggested that funding for embassy security follows a “boom and bust” cycle, in which major attacks are followed by a sudden influx of resources that may be difficult to expend in a well-planned manner. An influx of security-related resources in the 1980s was followed by a lull in the 1990s when diplomatic security funding was greatly reduced prior to the 1998 attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. The subsequent State Department Accountability Review Board suggested that the preceding years of reduced spending for embassy security was a contributing factor to the vulnerability of the targeted embassies.”

If Congress stays true to form, the boom is already starting.  The Hill reports:

The Senate passed an amendment to the defense bill by voice vote Wednesday that would place more Marines at U.S. consulates and embassies around the world… Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the amendment. He said the amendment was important to preventing more deaths overseas, referring to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012….

McCain said his amendment, 3051, would also ask the Department of Defense to reassess the rules of engagement for Marines stationed at embassies and consulates so they could engage in combat when attacked.

The amendment authorize a 1,000 person increase in the size of the Marine Corps to provide additional protections for U.S. embassies and consulates. More here. While I do think we should revisit our use of force policy at our overseas post, the Democracy Arsenal takes up the other side of this amendment — why there is a push to increase Marine presence instead of increasing Diplomatic Security agents:

“Just to be clear, this is not so say that the Marines do not play an important role in diplomatic security. Clearly they do both in terms of information protection and protection of dignitaries and personnel. However, it is strange that Sen. McCain would advocate so forcefully for increasing the Marines presence with no mention of the forces primarily tasked with the mission, especially since his colleagues have repeatedly decreased funding.”

More from the CRS report:

The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide.1 Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not isolated instances. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, after armed individuals attacked and burned buildings on the main mission compound and subsequently attacked a second annex site where U.S. personnel had been evacuated.

Five other U.S. ambassadors have died by violent acts in the line of duty, although none since 1979.2 In addition to this total, 38 U.S. diplomats who were not ambassadors have been killed in the past 30 years.3 There were 39 attacks against U.S. embassies and consulates and official U.S. personnel overseas between 1998 and 2008, excluding regular attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.4
[…]
The inability to provide perfect security, especially against the evident threat of mob violence, has focused particular scrutiny on the deployment of diplomatic personnel in high-threat environments. The Department of State currently maintains a presence in locations faced with security conditions that previously would likely have led State to evacuate personnel and close the post.

Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations are obligated to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of  sending states. However, instances in which host nations have been unable or not fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility have sometimes left U.S. facilities vulnerable, especially in extraordinary circumstances. U.S. facilities therefore employ a layered approach to security, including not only the measures taken by a host country, but also additional, U.S.-coordinated measures, to include armed Diplomatic Security agents, hardened facilities, U.S.-trained and/or contracted local security guards, and sometimes U.S. Marine Security Guard detachments (whose principal role is securing sensitive information).

The rapid growth in the number of U.S. civilians deployed in high-risk environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan spurred significant investment in recent years in the Department of State’s capacity to provide security in dangerous areas through its Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), while simultaneously placing unprecedented burdens on DS’s capability to carry out this mission successfully there and in other challenging locations. With greater focus on these frontline states, funds for other U.S. facilities could be strained.
[…]
As Congress examines whether enough funding has been provided or more is needed for properly securing American personnel, embassies, and information around the world, it will do so in a climate of shrinking budgets; any proposed funding increases are likely to be met with calls for offsetting cuts elsewhere.

Also of near-term concern is the possible effect that the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25) sequestration could have on diplomatic security funding. If across-the-board spending reductions occur as scheduled on January 2, 2013, currently estimated at about 8.2% of funding, security funding could be reduced as well. Those who consider embassy security funding to be insufficient would find the problem exacerbated by sequestration. The combined effects of a sequestration in 2013 and a half year Continuing Resolution that ends in March 2013 could generate concerns about diplomatic security funding in the months and years ahead.

Some foreign policy experts are concerned that, with limited available dollars for foreign affairs overall, war-related costs in frontline states may be drawing funds away from needs in the rest of the 285-plus U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. With the recent Arab Spring uprisings, for example, U.S. personnel located in those countries may be more vulnerable than those located in the frontline states where the embassies were built and heavily fortified recently. Some observers wonder if the rapidly evolving changes in Arab Spring countries may have contributed to difficulties in achieving and maintaining adequate diplomatic security there. Possibly adding to the difficulty is the unpredictability in the timing of funding bills being passed by Congress.

Fiscal years may not be in sync with new increasing needs or with contracts. Furthermore, when Congress is unable to pass funding bills until well into the new fiscal year, or passes continuing resolutions in place of spending bills for the remainder of the fiscal year, the agency is left to guess what annual funding they can expect and has fewer months to spend the funds once received.

Another, perhaps longer-term related aspect of the funding debate is whether the United States can afford to maintain facilities and adequate security everywhere, especially in nascent democracies that are often unstable and unpredictable. If embassy security is the responsibility of the local government, but that government does not have the capability required to keep American personnel safe, the U.S. government must weigh the security risks of keeping a U.S. presence in such environments.

Continue reading, Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues.

domani spero sig

Benghazi: Where the hell were the Marines? Yo! Half our embassies have no Marines

There is a misconception out there shared by some Americans that when they get in trouble overseas, Uncle Sam will come get them. That’s wrong.  He won’t send a helicopter rescue nor the US Marines, not even if our countrymen are in a foreign jail.

Another misconception has to do with the US Marines. On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul over in the Washington Times asks, “Where the hell were the Marines?”

Shortly after the Benghazi attack, Politico also reported it has learned that “The consulate where the American ambassador to Libya was killed on Tuesday is an “interim facility” not protected by the contingent of Marines that safeguards embassies.”

The State Department has 294 physical embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world.  Currently, about 1,200 Marine security guards are assigned to security detachments in 148 locations. For understandable reason the list of posts with no MSG is currently unavailable online, unless of course, Congress publishes the list in its search for da truth.

The Marine guards at US embassies are part of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group  (MCESG) based in Quantico, Virginia.

Its mission according to http://www.marines.mil/

The primary mission of the Marine Security Guard is to provide internal security at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities in order to prevent the compromise of classified material vital to the national security of the United States.

The secondary mission of the MSG is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S government property located within designated U.S. diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances (urgent temporary circumstances which require immediate aid or action).

So where the hell were the Marines?

Is it just possible that there were no Marines in Benghazi because there were no classified material to protect?

Hell, ya … but does it matter? Nope.

Where the hell were the Marines, dammit?!

Here is a bit of the MSG program history:

The Marine Security Guard (MSG) Program, in its current form, has been in place since December 1948, but the Marine Corps has a long history of cooperation and distinction with the Department of State (DOS) going back to the early days of the Nation. From the raising of the United States flag at Derna, Tripoli, and the secret mission of Archibald Gillespie in California, to the 55-days at Peking, the United States Marines have served many times on special missions as couriers, guards for embassies and delegations, and to protect American officials in unsettled areas.

The origins of the modern MSG Program began with the Foreign Service Act of 1946 that stated the Secretary of Navy is authorized, upon the request of the Secretary of State, to assign enlisted Marines to serve as custodians under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at an embassy, legation, or consulate. Using this Act, the DOS and U.S. Marine Corps entered into negotiations to establish the governing provisions for assigning MSGs overseas. These negotiations culminated in the first joint Memorandum of Agreement signed on 15 December 1948. Trained at the DOS’s Foreign Service Institute, the first MSGs departed for Tangier and Bangkok on 28 January 1949. The authority granted in the Foreign Service Act of 1946 has since been replaced by Title 10, United States Code 5983, and the most recent Memorandum of Agreement was signed on 13 March 2008. The Marine Corps assumed the primary training responsibility of its MSGs during November 1954.

Following the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut Admiral Ray Inman chaired the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security.   Part of that report concerns the Marine Security Group’s role in embassy security. While I have not seen the 2008 MOU between State and the Marine Corps, I suspect that role has not changed very much:

MSG’s are not normally posted near, on or outside of the premise perimeter. This is because the protection of the mission is primarily the responsibility of the host government. Further, many countries would object to the posting of military personnel on their soil.

The MSG’s carry out their primary mission by a) operating access controls and stationary and patrol coverage of classified facilities and operations, b) conducting inspections and patrols to ensure proper procedures for handling and storage of classified material within the premises, c) writing notices of security violations as Department of State security regulations direct, d) effecting and supervising destruction of classified waste, e) providing control of buildings and portions of buildings during construction or renovation of areas, f) providing special guard services for U.S. delegation offices for regional or international conferences at which classified information is kept, g) assisting in guarding the temporary overseas residences of the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and other ranking dignitaries as required, and h) providing internal security guard coverage on a temporary basis of the Principal Officer’s residence when the life or safety of the protected official is in danger. The latter duty is rarely conducted by the Marines and it is subject to written orders and approval. Further, the assignment must be in response to a threat situation, and the MSG’s must be armed and in uniform. The MSG’s may also provide special guard services in the execution of interagency plans for dealing with emergency situations.

The MSG Detachments are operationally supervised by the Regional Security Officer (RSO) or the Post Security Officer (PSO). The RSO or PSO provides the guard orders, directions and instructions for the operations of the Marines at the post and ensures that they are properly housed and supported. The Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) is the senior member of the MSG Detachment and he supervises and administratively controls the Marines. He reports through the RSO or PSO to the Chief of Mission.

As described above, the MSG role is essentially defensive in nature. They serve as an in-house deterrent to limited acts of violence, as well as a defense mechanism to large scale riots. The Marines are expected to delay entry by hostile elements long enough to permit destruction of classified material and to assist in protecting lives of the mission staff until host government forces arrive. They are authorized, under the command of the senior Foreign Service officer present, to use weapons to protect their own lives or mission staff from direct and immediate danger. The specific use of force is outlined in the MSG post guard orders.

In 1983, less than one-half or only 126 of our foreign posts were protected internally by the U.S. Marines. The MCESG says that the Marine guards are currently in 148 locations which is about half the number of our current overseas posts (Marine spokesman at the Pentagon put the number at 130 locations).  In the last 29 years since the Beirut embassy bombing, the Marine security detachments at our overseas posts grew by 22.

Part of the Inman report recommendation also states that “At those very small posts with few Americans, and where it is not practical to supplement the post with at least six Marines, the Panel recommends that the Department reduce or eliminate the amount of classified or sensitive equipment and material at these posts.”

Note that the commission did not say reduce the staff but to reduce or eliminate the amount of classified information. Logic dictates that the Marines will be present where there is classified material to protect, but will not be present if there is none (note: specific types of classified material cannot be present without Marine guards).

As in 1983, there will be calls to provide Marine security guards at all our overseas posts. And of course, despite all the noise and stuff, that will not happen.

The Benghazi attack has now become a feeding frenzy with all sorts of sharkies. Some of the stories out there are informed by nuttiness and ignorance that it doesn’t even make sense to write about it. Check this one out.  And a smoking gun one day is not smoking the next day.  So I’m going to stop hyperventilating (same recommendation for the Hill) and wait for the congressionally mandated accountability review board’s report.

And perhaps while waiting we can have a useful conversation about our Marines and the appropriate use of force in our diplomatic posts.  The MSG’s role is defensive in nature. The protesters, no doubt are aware of that. They knew that since Tehran.  Is it time to rethink that and allow aggressive resistance within embassy grounds using non lethal and lethal force that corresponds to the escalation of the attack?

If I’m missing anything on the Marine guards, please feel free to add in the comments.